Today, March 23rd, 2020, I am turning 23. Looking back on my year of 22, I can tell you one thing: it for sure wasn’t boring. Many cool adventures, spontaneous decisions, and big changes regarding my plans for the future.
Like last year, I decided to share my highlights of this past year with all of you. Since there is no way I would be able to pick favorites, my experiences are listed in chronological order. I’ve written blog posts on some of these memories, so I’ve linked them to give you some travel inspiration and tips to plan your next travels.
Tip: To keep up with my memories in real time, consider following me on Instagram. I usually take you along with me on my stories.
April 6th, 2019 – Spending the day at Angkor Wat
I started my year of 22 still traveling with 7 months down and 2 months to go. At the time, I was traveling through South East Asia for six weeks with a friend I had made in Australia. We met up a few days before I turned 22. One of the first highlights we had together was visiting Angkor Wat.
In general, I really fell in love with Cambodia, I liked the serene atmosphere even in the cities. We’ve also found some amazing vegan food, which you can check out here. There was no question that we would definitely go to visit the largest religious monument in the world.
We went to Angkor Wat for sunrise and then explored 3 of its temples. For everything you need to know about visiting Angkor Wat for sunrise, check out the caption of this Instagram post of mine:
April 9th-12th, 2019 – Getting my certification as an open water scuba diver
I knew that if I was ever going to Thailand, I would definitely get my open water diving license. And that’s what I did when we were on Koh Tao. The small island is known for its diving schools. I did my certification with Roctopus Dive and had a great time.
In fact, I liked it so much I even signed up for their advanced course. Unfortunately, an ear infection stopped me from getting my advanced certificate, though. But still, I am glad I got my “diver’s license” in my year of 22. Check out the video below for one of the dives I did as part of my certification.
April 13th, 2019 – Spending Songkran on Koh Tao
Songkran is the New Year’s celebration in Thailand. It’s on April 13th every year but the celebrations can last up to five days. The celebration consists of the world’s biggest water fight. Everywhere you go people shoot at you with water guns, hose you down or dump a bucket of water over your head.
We only learned about Songkran less than a month before but were able to make sure we would be in Thailand for it. And it did not disappoint, we had such a fun day on Koh Tao! What I loved most is that this wasn’t an event made for and appropriated by tourists. It was the locals’ event and the tourists simply joined in.
April 19th, 2019 – Attending the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan
One highlight chased the other in Thailand. I loved our time on Koh Phangan! Not only were there heaps of vegan food options (check out my vegan food guide to Thailand here), but we also stayed in our own little bungalow. Said bungalow was located right on the beach of the Full Moon Party.
The Full Moon Party was such a crazy experience! The whole Hat Rin beach turns into a party with different DJ stations, fire shows, and neon colors. There is music for everyone’s taste and people go all night long. I am so glad I got to experience the craziness of a Full Moon Party in my year of 22.
April 27th, 2019 – Visiting an elephant sanctuary
Another bucket list adventure for Thailand and my year of 22! I’ve always wanted to do this and in April of 2019, it finally came true. A lot of research went into finding an actually ethical place. We decided on doing one of the saddle-off projects of Elephant Nature Park. If you need any help with finding an ethical elephant sanctuary, check out the caption of my Instagram post below and read this and this.
We had such a special experience! After making food for the elephants, we fed them and went for a trek – they led the way. Then, we watched them take a mud bath (not all of them wanted to go, so they weren’t made to go) and helped them shower off the mud. Overall, this was probably one of my favorite days ever!
May 6th-9th, 2019 – Driving the Ha Giang Loop
When I did my research on how to do the Ha Giang Loop in Northern Vietnam, I was convinced I would end up either dead or arrested by the police for driving without a valid motorbike license. Now, I don’t want to encourage reckless or illegal behavior but every once in a while it might pay off to stop worrying and just do!
My experience on the Ha Giang Loop was incredible, the nature was breathtaking and it wasn’t as overcrowded by tourists as many other places. I felt confident in my driving skills and if I didn’t, I didn’t drive that part of the loop. For example, I walked up to the rock in the picture instead of driving up on a narrow path. Also, I met a lot of cool people some of which I ended up meeting again in different places!
I’ve compiled the ultimate guide to your experience on the Ha Giang Loop which you can check out here. It includes an interactive map and where to find vegan food. Definitely one of the coolest experiences in my year of 22.
May 14th, 2019 – Exploring Temples in Bagan
Bagan was just something different. When driving through the roads with dozens of temples on each side, I felt like I was on another planet at times. Tourists are not allowed to drive scooters but we hired e-scooters for the day. And by we, I mean me and two German girls who I met and spent my days with in Bagan and then went to Mandalay with. Overall, the day of “temple-hunting” in Bagan was one of my favorite activities in my year of 22. To find out more about what to do in Myanmar, check out my 3-week itinerary here.
May 19th-21st – Going on a 3-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake
I love hiking, so when I found out that there was a trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, I knew I was going to do it. The trek was a lot of fun and it was so interesting to see the Burmese nature – everything from dried up land to the lush greens at Inle Lake. Furthermore, it was a real adventure staying at a family home for the first and a monastery for the second night, getting to learn more about the Burmese culture. To find out more about what to do in Myanmar, check out my 3-week itinerary here.
June 3rd, 2019 – Coming home from nine months of traveling and surprising my family
Even before I even left for traveling, I knew that I would want to surprise my family when coming back. With the help of my dad and my best friend, I managed to do just that. It was such a special feeling coming home after nine months and being picked up at the airport by my best friend. And it was even more special to be able to surprise some of my loved ones. Watch me surprising my family below:
My brother’s reaction was my favorite – such a highlight of my year of 22.
June 28th, 2019 – Going back to Mannheim to celebrate my friends’ graduation
Almost exactly to the day one year after I had graduated, so did my best friends from Mannheim. I was so excited to go back to the city I once lived in and cheer on my friends, most of which I hadn’t seen since coming back home since we live all across Germany. However, I had met up with some of them during my travels, so it was exciting to look back on the shared memories. Obviously, there was a big party that night!
July 26th, 2019 – Going to Frankfurt for a work summer party
After settling back in in Düsseldorf, I started working for a company that I had done an internship with in Frankfurt before. For their annual work party, I got invited to Frankfurt where I also had time to meet up with a friend. I guess that was my first trip with all expenses paid 😛
September 5th, 2019 – Moving to and exploring Edinburgh
I was struggling to adjust to life back home because I felt like I was in between. In between traveling and starting my masters. Therefore, I decided to do a different master’s degree than the one I had originally planned on doing because the former started two months earlier than the latter. The decision was quite spontaneous. In fact, between deciding to apply for the master and actually moving to Edinburgh were maybe seven weeks or so.
Luckily, this turned out to be the best decision I could’ve made. I instantly fell in love with the city, made some great friends and was very happy with the master I had chosen. Looking back now, I am so glad I decided to be so spontaneous (something I would have never done before going traveling). The M.Sc. Performance Psychology I’m doing now is right up my alley and helped me so much in figuring out my future plans.
September 21st, 2019 – Going to my first ever rugby game
Of course, you can’t just move to Scotland without watching a rugby game at some point. So, when the opportunity presented itself that there was a varsity game on at our university, me and a few friends went and took advantage of it. We were blessed with exceptionally good weather (the weather in Scotland hasn’t been this good ever since) and had a great time watching both of our university’s teams win their respective matches. Always up for some firsts in my year of 22!
October 19th, 2019 – Going on a day trip to Durham and Newcastle
When my brother came to Scotland to visit me, we decided to join a day trip to Durham and Newcastle. He is a massive Harry Potter fan, so he was excited about visiting the Durham Cathedral. In general, we had a really nice time exploring both of the cities neither one of us had been to before.
November 29th- December 1st – Going on a Where’s Mollie Global Travellers adventure in Canterbury
I started 2019 with going to Mollie’s adventure in Byron Bay and ended it with her adventure in Canterbury. If you want to know why YOU should go on a WGMT adventure as well, check out this blog post. Again, I had some amazing days, including baking, meditation, and yoga, climbing, ice skating, walking on the beach and hiking. Furthermore, you will always meet some amazing people at Mollie’s adventures. I’ve had a lot of inspiring conversations and still keep in touch with some of the other members of our group.
December 1st-3rd, 2019 – Visiting London during Christmas time
I had been to London before but always during summer. So, it was cool to experience London with all its Christmas lights. In addition, I met up with some friends from traveling and Sarah who I had “met” on Instagram. We went to have breakfast at Coppa Club together, explored Notting Hill and took some great pictures of each other. For finding out how you can eat in one of the igloos at Coppa Club without having a booking, check out the caption of my post below.
December 3rd-5th – Doing a trip to Oxford
I thought I’d take advantage of being in England already and visited a friend in Oxford. It was such a cool experience – she showed me around a few different colleges. I think the system with the different colleges is so interesting! My friend even took me to a formal dinner at Balliol College where I was in awe the whole evening. Furthermore, it was so nice to spend time with her as we know each other from pole dance class back in Mannheim and had never before spent time outside of that context.
December 24th-26th – Spending Christmas back home with my family
After spending Christmas 2018 in Australia (which didn’t feel like Christmas at all), it was so nice to spend Christmas in my year of 22 with my immediate and extended family. Even though, one of my best friend’s family “adopted” me for Christmas in Melbourne the year prior, being home is just something different. Two babies had been born in my extended family during the time I was in Scotland and I finally got to meet them around Christmas time. The most special moment for me was when my cousin and her husband asked me to be their son’s godmother. I am already looking forward to going to his baptism in my year of 23.
December 31st- January 1st – Spending New Year’s Eve with my best friend
Let me tell you about my best friend. We met on vacation in April of 2011 and had a special connection right away. I am so grateful for our parents who used to drive us to each other’s houses so that we could spend every weekend together (that meant 3-4 hours of driving for them every second weekend!). Over time, our friendship changed and we had times with less contact. However, we’ve always stayed close at heart and maintained our long-distance friendship wherever we were. 2019/2020 was the third NYE we’ve spent together and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the new year – even though we were both really sick.
January 3rd-5th – Going to the Netherlands to visit some friends I’ve made while traveling
One thing I love about living in Europe is how easy it is to get to other countries. Hence, it didn’t take a lot of effort to meet up with some dear friends I met on my big trip. First, I went to Rotterdam to meet up with one of my friends who is studying there. I had first met her in New Zealand where we only spent 3 or 4 days together but just got along really well. Then, we met back up again in Melbourne twice. It was so nice to see her again and let her show me around and catch up.
The following day, I drove to Utrecht to explore the city center a little bit before continuing on to Amsterdam to visit another friend. We had met on a 3-day boat trip in the Philippines (check out my blog post on the trip here LINK) and subsequently traveled the Philippines together with another friend of his for some time. I even briefly saw him again in Thailand and Vietnam as well. Again, I had a great time and drove back home very happy the next day.
January 7th – Watching a Cirque du Soleil Show
As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by contortionists and other artists who can take you to different worlds with their performance. Fun fact, my back is (or at least used to be) quite flexible, therefore I also gave some contortionist poses a try. Cirque du Soleil, to me, is the embodiment of incredible artists doing breathtaking things with their bodies. Naturally, when my mom asked me whether I wanted to go to their “Totem” show in Düsseldorf, I didn’t hesitate even a split second.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Thinking back, the whole evening seems surreal to me, kind of like a dream. Like expected, the contortionists were my favorites but every single artist managed to fascinate me.
February 14th-20th – Taking some time off in Alicante
As much as I love living in Edinburgh, especially after spending nine months primarily in the sun and having a warm summer in Germany, I was really craving some sun. So, I took advantage of a week off uni in February and went to Alicante in Spain. Even though it was only really sunny over the weekend, it was still much nicer than in Edinburgh weatherwise. For the weekend, my mom joined me and we explored Alicante. In addition to the sun, it felt so good to not do anything for uni. I even managed to read two books during my time there.
Check out my guide to being in Alicante on a budget. Also, stay tuned for a blog post on being vegan in Alicante. It’s coming up later this week!
With everything going on at the moment, it’s safe to say that times are challenging for everyone. I’ve been sick in bed for 18 days at the time of writing this. Probably a bronchitis but I’m not sure because no doctor will see me. However, it is important to focus on the positives in times like these. Therefore, looking back on my year of 22 was the perfect thing to do for me!
My year of 22 has been another amazing one. It has taught me that it pays off to be flexible with your future plans and trust your heart. If I hadn’t gone traveling, I probably would have never decided to spontaneously go with another master. Which turned out to be the best decision I possibly could have made. I learned so much about myself and that my true passion lies with coaching. Therefore, the next year will be about figuring out how to get into coaching as quickly as possible while still being taken seriously. Also, I will start working within the next 12 months. I am so excited for everything that lies ahead.
I would love for you to keep following along my journey whether it be on here or on Instagram.
Thank you for all your continuous support!
So long, Katja